Stage 7: Sulmona - Foligno 211 km
On the eight day of the Giro we go from Abruzzo to Umbria on our travels north.
What's It About?
The course traverses the Abruzzo region, passing the earthquake hit L'Aquila. Our finish is the unremarkable town of Foligno in Umbria though. Most of all this town seems to be known as an important railway hub and as such it also saw more than its fair share of bombardment in WW2 making it a town with more modern buildings and less history than you'd otherwise expect. This seems to be a bit of a pattern of bad luck as there was a period before 1000AD when the town was ravaged and ruined on such a regular basis by invading saracens and magyars that the townsfolk in the end simply gave up. They grabbed whatever stuff they had left and relocated the whole town to a nearby location with a fortified church which is where we find modern Foligno.
Perhaps the most excellent bit of trivia for Foligno is that the hold an annual festival dedicated to First Courses (primo piatto). Decide for yourself if you want to explore the pasta or the polenta dishes, or perhaps go nuts and try the fish or truffle starters. I'm not sure if anyone hosts an antipasti festival but if someone does you may want to visit that first for orders sake.
The main feature today is probably moving through some beautiful landscapes. In terms of difficulty it is gentle compared to the last few days.
Of course "gentle" in Giro terms still involves a fair bit of hills as you can see.
Little lumps along the road aside, there is no doubting this will turn into a sprint in the end unless something dramatic happens. After this the race turns meager for the sprint teams so this is the time for them to go all in. The last obstacle of the day is a Cat 4 climb 41 kms from the finish so you can do the math on how this ends. Only a seriously tired Marcel Kittel runs any risk at all of missing the finale for this but the motivation to finally get an Italian stage win should overcome that one would think.
We haven't seen a break succeed so far [EDIT- Hi Tim Wellens! Lookin' Good!] and that is always a chance in terrain like this of course but it is going to take some serious miscalculation or unwillingness to work from the peloton for it to happen here. And there are still too many teams empty handed for that to actually happen most likely.
Perhaps the trickiest part of the day is the final two kilometers?
With three tight turns and a long sweeping bend at 250 meters out it does feel like we have the biggest risk yet of a classic Giro-style chaos-sprint here.
Riders to Watch
Marcel, Marcel, Marcel. Especially on that final climb. Given his meek attempts to make the finales on the lumpy stages so far, stage 5 most notably, you could see some of the other teams wanting to grill the big slab of German meat out on the stage to see if he could falter and drop off on the climb. The potential wins in such a strategy are pretty obvious, if he makes it over then there is a decent chance it is game over for everyone else. Lotto, Orica, Lampre and Bardiani could all benefit from this and have the manpower to try and make things difficult for Etixx if they sense that there is actually a chance to mess with Kittel.
AmyBC's Food and Wine Pairings
Today's culinary suggestions from the region from AmyBC. You can check out her blog atWinebookgirl.
Wine: Bea Rosso de Veo 2009
From the importer: References in the archives of Montefalco, the beautiful hill town in Umbria, document the presence of the Bea family in this locality as early as 1500.
Food: Umbrian lentils The fabled Castelluccio lentils are not a protected DOP product - this means the Italian government hasn't yet clamped down on imposters and refined the market to include only the authentic lentils of Castelluccio.
Pick to Win:
Elia Viviani. Etixx are good but I wonder if Kittel might not get himself lost in that final kms twisty-turny stuff. There are others who are better at negotiating that kind of finish and I somehow struggle to see Viviani walking away from this Giro emptyhanded.